WWE 2K23’s tagline this year is ‘Even Stronger’ – a fitting motto for a series that had already previously came back from a year’s hiatus to critical and commercial success.
This year’s entry then had the responsibility of maintaining the fans goodwill – while also adding something to the series that makes fans want to come back for more.
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And while the end result does play it relatively safely, it’s reassuring that 2K have at least made a tangible effort to maintain that new standard the previous game has set.
WWE 2K23 – A Hard Cell?
We’ll start off by looking at the new – with this year’s big new addition this time around is the long fan-requested WarGames mode, which is not only present and correct, but feels markedly different from other matchtypes.
Briefly, two teams of superstars face off in an arena made up of two rings stuck together, surrounded by a steel cage. One superstar from each team enters the match on regular intervals, and victory can only be achieved once all superstars are in the right.
Wisely, 2K Games has ensured this mode can be taken online – so you get to experience this fun with friends – and though it can get chaotic, so far in our brief foray during early access the online holds up well.
We covered the mode fairly extensively in our preview – but we can reassure you that they’ve stuck the landing – and it’s still just as chaotic fun throwing bodies, weapons and more around.
WWE 2K23 – Super Cena
Another checkbox in the ‘new’ column comes in the way of the John Cena 2K Showcase – with its unique twist this year of letting you play against Cena, as you go through some of the most memorable matches of his career.
If you’re a fan of Cena – and even if you’re not – it’s a lot of fun within the framework of playing these classic moments – but still suffers a little from the flaw of being very stop and start.
See, you have to meet specific objectives during the match – and you are likely to be hitting pause a lot to remind yourself of how to pull off specific moves. It’s a minor gripe though, and the mode isn’t too long so it’s hard to hold it against the game too much.
There’s also a lovely twist towards the end that we won’t spoil here, which is a huge wink and nod to Cena fans and well worth the brief three to five hours it’ll take you to finish the mode.
Conversely, we’re still a bit on the fence about the MyFaction mode. Returning from last year’s game it’s still a card based mode which has some nice ideas – make your own factions from random cards – but suffers a lot of the same issues as last year’s game; including having some content locked exclusively to a mode based heavily around RNG and microtransactions.
WWE 2K23 – MyRise Above Hate
Probably the best of the new content though comes in the form of MyRise – the game’s equivalent to a ‘career mode’ where you take a custom superstar through one of two stories.
Having done the ‘WWE Performance Center to Hall of Famer’ for a couple of years, wisely this year things are shaken up, with The Lock and The Legacy.
The former is a story about a Superstar destined to become ‘the next big thing’ (think Brock Lesnar) and the latter is a superstar following in the footsteps of their already famous relative.
Each story is very different from the other, with plenty of branching paths, choices to make and side quests and stories that will help mould your superstar.
And while many quests do follow a familiar pattern (ie: win a match) they do mix things up – such as match types, different arenas and more to give a great feel for pretty much every match in the game.
And it’s always fun to chat to the real-life WWE superstars and personalities in-between missions, who provide their own voices for their in-game counterparts.
It’s a really fun, deep mode – and definitely a key factor in recommending picking up the latest entry almost on its own. That’s also before mentioning a huge quality of life change – being able to export and import your custom superstar from elsewhere into the mode (a huge bugbear from the last game as, if you went through it in the wrong order, you’d wind up having to make your custom superstar twice.)
WWE 2K23 – Basic Thuganomics
And in fact, that’s definitely the theme throughout the game. While there’s not massive overhauls or sweeping changes – there are a bunch of seemingly small but actually significant improvements and quality of life updates that do justify its existence as a new entry.
These include things like the expanded MyGM mode now letting you play with up to four players as well as adding more managers, more titles and a bunch of other additions.
If that wasn’t enough, there’s multiplayer quick matches new to MyFaction mode, the expanded customization tools, new pre and post-match outcomes and choices in Universe mode and more than we have wordcount for.
The new pin-mechanic too is another small but significant improvement – sure, you can use traditional button mashing, but the stick flicking works very well, and feels more akin to the action on screen.
As for everything else – the plethora of modes available to fans is as bountiful as ever including standard matches, table matches, TLCs, Hell in a Cell, Elimination Chamber matches and more.
Presentation wise, it’s of course a great looking game, most of the roster look very close to their real life counterparts on Xbox Series X|S, and the lighting looks as good as we’ve come to expect from Visual Concepts.
The range of customisation tools as well, is fantastic – you really can go wild here, and create Superstars, Arenas, Championship belts – literally just about anything you could wish for your own dream promotion.
WWE 2K23 – Final Verdict
WWE 2K23 is not a revolution, but when the foundation its building on was already so strong, the if it ain’t broke logic certainly applies and the new additions are very welcome indeed.
If you’re a die-hard WWE fan, you’ve already made your mind up – and if you’re more casual and didn’t pick up last year’s, it’s an easy recommendation to go straight onto this one.
If you don’t fall into those two camps and you did get last year’s game, it’s a slightly harder sell – but between the updated roster, the new features and quality of life changes – WWE 2K23 just about justifies its asking price.
To compare the game to its cover star, this entry is more like the middle of Cena’s US Open Challenge Title run circa 2015 – it keeps up the momentum from a revitalised series, and we’re still excited to return for more.
Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: 2K Games
Available on: Xbox Series X|S [Reviewed on], Xbox One, PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, PC.
Release Date: March 17, 2023
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